‘Darbar’ Movie Review: Agony of joy, celebration and nostalgia

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The film scores heavily on Rajini’s style quotient. Whether he stands, walks, runs, or sits, there is a charisma to whatever he does.

A hardcore fan, all the way from Japan, joins the crowd outside the theatre as they, in their frenzy, venerate their favourite actor by performing the traditional paal abhishekam (a ritual of pouring milk on a big Rajinikanth poster). Inside the theatre, before the movie begins, a section of the audience starts chanting mantras. The euphoria surrounding the release of a Rajini film can be seen everywhere. (I saw and felt the love for Rajini all around and it’s something one has to experience for himself.) Once the film is projected onto the big screen, it doesn’t fail to entertain the audience either. Director A.R. Murugadoss’ Darbar is a film to celebrate for all those who adore Superstar Rajinikanth. Like Petta, it’s definitely not for anyone who is looking for a great story where the ‘actor’ Rajinikanth is fitted into. (He is one of those actors who has won the hearts of people with his exemplary performances more than anything else.) The narrative has poorly interwoven dots and dumbed-down plot points where the ‘Rajinism’ acts as the only saviour.

Darbar refers to a court held by a prince. Here, Adithya Arunachalam (Rajinikanth), the police commissioner, is the prince and Mumbai city is his court. He is, as he claims, a “bad cop”. The film touches upon the cases of human trafficking and illegal sale and consumption of drugs. But they are merely used to display the heroics of our protagonist. The cases are not explored in-depth and fade away quickly. We also see an interesting triangle – police being brutally killed; people losing faith in the police force; prisoners filling the gaps created by police. Again, Adithya steals the limelight here. In spite of a lot of things happening in the film, ‘Rajini mania’ simply outshines everything else. That’s good news for the fans but not so much for an ardent cinephile.

The film scores heavily on Rajini’s style quotient. Whether he stands, walks, runs, or sits, there is a charisma to whatever he does. The transformation in his countenance – from being sad at one point to slowly putting back smile on his face a moment later – is amazing.

It’s astonishing to see how Santosh Sivan, the cinematographer, captures the ‘Rajini moments’ using the ceiling fans. While Rajini is standing still, a camera, placed on the ground, captures him along with two ceiling fans on either side that makes for a perfect picture. Or, the camera is kept near the ceiling fan and the entire room is brought into focus. It, then, shows Rajini entering the room in style or throwing the phone away in his anger.

Whether it’s emerging from the smoke and walking towards the camera, or standing still inside a room with sunlight streaming in from the window, or putting on his goggles and turning to the other side, or just moving his finger to guide the men following him, Rajinikanth can make simple things look awesome.

Petta had plenty of references to previous Rajini films. Darbar doesn’t emulate Petta but does have some mentions too. Different instances make us hark back to some of his popular films. He looks at the camera and walks singing (with the lyrics containing life lessons) as the camera rotates from a stationary point and follows him. His dance moves remind us of Kuluvalile (Muthu) and Kokku Para Para (Chandramukhi). As he fights the goons with ease using the rapid movement of hands, it makes us reminisce about Moondru Mugam. The powerful way, in which he says his own name, make us remember Arunachalam. His Superstar title card music itself is reprised in the form of an addictive song (Kudos to Music Director Anirudh Ravichander).

Well, Darbar has its own original Rajini style too. Chumma Kizhi, another gem of a song from Anirudh, that will definitely make you tap your feet, features Rajini rendering a dance move that resembles the act of tearing something.

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The comical elements are abundant and it’s the character of Kaushik (Yogi Babu) whose scenes with Adithya are sidesplitting. Yogi Babu is a master of comedy and he has a peculiar way of insulting someone that seems extremely funny. He, as Kaushik, gets a surfeit of opportunities in the film to do that to Adithya character while the latter tries to impress a woman.

As a matter of fact, the funnier side of Rajini has always been a talking point. Kabali and Kaala, due to their strong and intense stories, couldn’t really show him in a jolly mood. But 2.0 and Petta had a superabundance of mirthful Rajini on display. Darbar is not far behind. Adithya and his daughter, Valli (Nivetha Thomas) show some dance moves during a classy fight sequence. Or, he, with a broad smile on the face, points his fingers at the camera and acts like he is shooting with a gun. Or, he just childishly explains how he will pierce the knife through all over his enemy’s chest and abdomen.

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Lilly (Nayanthara) is Adithya’s love-interest. Nayanthara’s charming presence, even though for a brief period, enthrals you. Apart from Yogi Babu, it’s Nayanthara who makes sure that she makes her presence felt. The mix of romance and hilarity during Rajini-Nayanthara-Yogi phase is one of the biggest highlights of the film. ‘Dumm Dumm’, another captivating song from Anirudh, features Nayanthara and Rajini dancing together that’s surely going to excite everyone.

Murugadoss doesn’t shy away from letting his audience know that Rajini is old. Yogi Babu who, in his flurry of humorous comments, keeps referencing to Adithya’s old age. Lilly’s cousin, rendered by Sriman in his brief and arresting spell, questions Adithya’s morality of loving a much younger woman (of his daughter’s age). Murugadoss purposely keeps such scenes to reiterate the fact that he is as popular and vibrant as ever. He wants to make a strong statement that over the years, Rajini, though, has aged, is still the most-sought-after actor. Adithya is seen doing weight training in the gym and passing a fitness test eventually. He is also revered by everyone no matter what their gender is or what age-group they belong to. (A group of transgenders sing and dance praising Adithya and even a small kid, wearing a police uniform, runs towards Adithya, comes to a stop and salutes him.)

Hari Chopra (Sunil Shetty), the main antagonist, appearing too late in the film, doesn’t have a powerful characterisation and isn’t impactful either. Other antagonists in the film played by Prateik, Nawab Shah and Jatin Sarna, after short appearances, vanish into thin air.

At most places, the bad storytelling is discernible. The film, especially, loses its hold halfway through as the dumb proceedings from thereon are irksome. For instance, the sentiments attached to the loss of the daughter is never felt. Or, the evil acts of antagonist and his villainy is not represented well enough.

In the recent past, fitting Rajinikanth into a great story and satisfying his hardcore fans has remained an enigma to many directors. Director Shankar’s Sivaji The Boss, Enthiran, and 2.0 are exceptions. Pa. Ranjith’s Kaala and Kabali also did well create an unusual environment for a Rajinikanth film. Darbar, in a way, follows the Petta-esque script where a plentitude of Rajini moments keeps the audience, fans in particular, engrossed. That doesn’t ensure the film to become memorable. The film definitely entertains. But when you leave Rajini out of the equation, the film feels hollow. Darbar is a treat for Rajini lovers but not so much for film connoisseurs.

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Kattumaram Movie Review: A beautifully-made film on LGBTQ+ that shows hope and belief amidst difficult times

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Karthik Muthukumar, who is the Director of Photography, is a master at work. There are plenty of attention-grabbing shots at the seashore.

(Screened at Regional Film Festival 2019, Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi)

Singaram (Mysskin) says that mother sea, who has taken away life, will give something in return when she has calmed down. He is a local fisherman and is referring to the Tsunami that once took away many lives in his village (including his loved ones). He is living with his niece, Anandhi (Preeti Karan), and a young nephew. He believes that one day he will be able to cross the sea. Singaram is hoping his current situation will get better. Being a strong patriarch, he’s earnestly trying to find the right match for his nephew. Kattumaram (Catamaran), directed by Swarnavel Eswaran, is a metaphorical title that is remarkable for its deeply ingrained meanings. In this, there is always a belief that good-heartedness and good times will prevail and difficult times will be long gone by. Like Singaram, the film empathises with the LGBTQ+ community.

Singaram has different shades of character. And Mysskin is so good to bring out all of them with perfect aplomb. Although Singaram is a patriarch, he is also benevolent, caring, loving, understanding and supportive. (He offers money to someone showing utmost care in his countenance or even scolds a man for abusing a woman and thinking her as someone of a questionable character). Anandhi is a school teacher. (Preeti Karan’s voice is so beautiful and you can’t get enough of Anandhi dictating a lesson to the students). As Kavita (Anusha Prabhu), a photographer, enters the frame, the story takes a different shape and acquaints you with the blossoming romance between her and Anandhi. Whether it’s a romantic moment or an emotional sequence, P. Bharani Dharan’s melodious and captivating background score accentuates the feelings associated with the scenes to a whole new level (Can remind one of the legendary composer Isaignani Ilaiyaraja).

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Easwaran is interested in intelligently bringing out the lesbian connection in the film. The school’s name, where Anandhi works, is Vaanavil (which means Rainbow in Tamil). You see the school board out on the street with its name and those seven colours. (Is it to signify the Rainbow Pride Flag?). Easwaran is not trying to show you the sexual relationship between lesbians. He wants to delineate that it’s deeper and meaningful. (Kavita emotionally talks about her past and her ex-lesbian partner’s ill fate). Moreover, the film is set in a village where one’s sexual orientation is strictly judged by certain prejudices. Being caught as a lesbian would draw furious reactions from every corner of the village.

Karthik Muthukumar, who is the Director of Photography, is a master at work. There are plenty of attention-grabbing shots at the seashore. The locked-down shots, for instance, are mesmerising. (While the stationary camera is gazing at the tides by the seashore, the film depicts a family in high spirits at one instant and in immense anger in another. In a different scene, a flickering light approaches towards the camera while the surrounding is engulfed by darkness. As the light comes closer to the camera, a transwoman is revealed.) A long shot shows a man’s dilemma and his empathy for a widow. There’s also a medium shot which shows peacefulness and merriment. (You see Anandhi sitting on a wooden plank by the seashore, a cool breeze touching her cheeks and the top layer of sand moving with the wind). In a closeup, the camera closely captures a crab moving through the sand while, in the distance, men are playing a Kabaddi match at the night time and a bright yellow light is streaming from a street bulb. Even a combination of a long shot and a closeup works big time. (You get a longshot where pretty looking Anandhi, who is all dressed up, is standing by the seashore. And then, in the closeup, Anandhi turns behind, with the hair falling all over her face due to the blowing wind.)

Several other instances invoke tranquillity. A long shot, with the camera placed near the field, shows Anandhi riding her bicycle in the distance. Or, you see the camera focussing at two coconut trees against the blue sky.

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Amidst the serious tone of the film, the film does have chucklesome instances. A family indignantly walking off and hurling abuses at Anandhi for rejecting their son seem funny. Singaram threatening a police officer for molesting Anandhi is both stylish and humorous.

The film does have no sexual activity related to a lesbian relationship. But it shows glimpses of different people deriving sexual pleasures in different ways. You see a transwoman involved in oral sex. You also see religious woman, alone at home, is seduced by a man for sex. In a way, the film resorts to represent a slice of life. A boy and a girl meeting each other, getting married, leading a happy life to get the approbation of the everyone else is considered to be a norm by many. But when someone doesn’t end up leading a similar life, is questioned, thrashed and even ostracised.

‘Nerkonda Paarvai’ Movie Review: A riveting film on consensual sex with a bit of heroism

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Source: Zee Music South | YouTube

Nerkonda Paarvai is a perfect remake of Pink that is intense, sorrowful and thrilling

Nerkonda Paarvai (Direct gaze) will naturally make us reminisce Pink of which it is an official remake. It is, of course, focussed and strongly presents its case like Pink. But, it is also more detailed than the original. And it works big time. Director H. Vinoth has chosen to stay true to the actual storyline and doesn’t deviate from its core message. The film does emphasise the issue of consensual sex. It superbly exhibits the fact that a mere “no” suffices to convey a woman’s objection to sex no matter if she is a girlfriend or a wife or even a sex-worker. There’s one character that Vinoth has chosen to alter a bit to give the film a whole new outlook – the lawyer named Bharath Subramaniam (Ajith Kumar). A terrific actor like Amitabh Bachchan pulled off a stunner while playing a lawyer in Pink. The personal life of the lawyer was not explored in detail in Pink. Nerkonda Paarvai excels on that front.

We are not just concerned about the fate of the three women – Meera (Shraddha Srinath), Famitha (Abirami Venkatachalam), and Andrea (herself) – who have been wrongly charged for soliciting young men and causing fatal injury to one of them. There’s also a good-old-days of Bharath. We are strongly attached to this character. We wear a smile on our faces looking at his happier days and also feel for his loss. (Vidya Balan is impressive as the wife of Bharath in her brief stint).

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Source: Zee Music South | YouTube

This is Tamil Cinema and ‘star’ factor matters a lot. Once again, Ajith and his love for cars and bikes can be seen that would delight a lot of his fans. Some stylishly shot scenes where Ajith rides a bike on high speed or removes the dust-covered cloth from his four-wheeler to take it out for a drive look wonderful. We also see him mentioning Formula-1 racing. Ajith also brilliantly brings out two sides of Bharath character – Subdued and Intense. There is a fight sequence as well and Ajith looks heroic (This sequence may feel unnecessary and may also seem a bit too much. For instance, a Doctor warns a goon on phone that he has to be careful with Bharath’s indignation).

You can’t ask for a better casting than this. Ajith is fantastic and makes the Bharath character look fierce, powerful, concerned, helpful, loving and anguished. Shraddha Srinath and Abirami Venkatachalam, in particular, deliver impactful performances. The surprise package to me was Rangaraj Pandey in the role of a lawyer named Sathyamoorthy who goes up against Bharath.

Yuvan Shankar Raja’s music has its magic felt as well (Kaalam, sung by Alisha Thomas and Yunohoo, is the one to look out for).

The humiliation, stress, sorrow, sexual assault, harassment and molestation that the women in this story encounter shouldn’t happen to anyone. The film raises a voice in support of women who are subjected to cruelty. It highlights male dominance and the beliefs of considering women as the weaker sex. Most importantly, it addresses the misconceptions that many men have in regards to women, their mannerisms and their lifestyle. Nerkonda Paarvai is a perfect remake of Pink that is intense, sorrowful and thrilling.

‘Sindhubaadh’ Movie Review: An uninteresting tale that goes hither and thither

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Sindhubaadh remains a humdrum film throughout that juggles between different things and ends up reaching nowhere.

Thiru (Vijay Sethupathi) and his young sidekick Super (Surya Vijay Sethupathi) have escaped from the grabs of goons. They look weary and start contemplating what to do next. They see a multi-floor building and Thiru decides to enter it. It sounds comedic as Super, who is very tired, enquires Thiru why are they going inside this building. Thiru responds saying that he does not know himself and would think about it later. As you sit through a long drawn-out story like Sindhubaadh, moments like this can seem chucklesome. Such moments can strangely seem similar to the way film meanders to get to its most important phase.

Director S. U. Arun Kumar’s Sindhubaadh is a story of Thiru (He gets a fake passport made for himself where his name is changed to Sindhubaadh) travelling all the way from India to Thailand to rescue his wife, Venba (Anjali), who has been captured by men running illegal organ trafficking business. Before the film actually gets to the organ trafficking part, which is the only phase where you feel engrossed in the film, it seems like drifting away with so many uninteresting additions and long running time (You might as well enjoy a sigh of relief as the intermission is declared on the screen).

Thiru’s hearing loss problem and Venba’s natural tendency to talk louder is a nicely thought-out scenario. Since the romance between these characters never really blossoms, this so-called scenario doesn’t work wonders. If at all anything can pleasantly surprise you in Thiru-Venba phase is a scene at the airport where Thiru has come to see Venba off. Suddenly, when she bends down, he ties a yellow thread around her neck that makes them a husband and a wife as per Hindu culture.

The tricks played by Thiru in his pursuit of winning the heart of Venba are supposed to be adding a funnier touch to the film (But, are they really?). Speaking of poor execution of comedy sequences, there is no escaping more of such annoying scenes that try too hard to make you laugh (For instance, the hackneyed depiction of the scenes where Thiru tells made-up stories to a guy. All you would be doing is watching with a blank countenance).

There’s a character played by Vivek Prasanna who is searching for his daughter. You see glimpses of this character developing into something serious. But he just keeps popping up every now and then and finds no real relevance in the movie, and hence, won’t make you feel for his loss.

There are even futile attempts to infuse “mass” elements (as is done in almost every masala films in Tamil cinema). You get to see how the film tries very hard to make Vijay Sethupathi look all powerful and glorious. For instance, in a scene, Thiru is fighting against some guys to protect Super. While doing so, he is casually talking to Super and even mocks a villain. Such scenes try to bring in the feeling of quirkiness and also show the protagonist in a heroic light. Neither of them works out. And then there’s a villain character whose duel with Thiru is underwhelming.

Better things in the film were far and few in between. Yuvan Shankar Raja’s amazing background score came as a beacon of light in an otherwise stodgy screenplay. Anjali as Venba, too, was fantastic and has put her heart and soul into this character (Venba’s agony can be felt as she is held tight by some men and forcefully dragged along the floor). You see few good attempts to highlight patriarchy (The father of Venba coerces her into marrying a man who he thinks is the right fit and even goes on to beat her before Thiru stops him) and women empowerment (Thiru motivates a woman to not sit at home no matter what and go out for work). Otherwise, Sindhubaadh remains a humdrum film throughout that juggles between different things and ends up reaching nowhere.

‘Game Over’ Movie Review: A jaw-dropping and heart-stopping thriller

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The horrors that you get to experience in Game Over are on a whole new high. Such an arresting act by Taapsee Pannu!

Swapna (an immensely powerful performance from Taapsee Pannu for the protagonist) is sharing her experience of fear and breathlessness, that she had inside a dark room, to a Doctor. While she does so, the camera steadily, slowly and quietly enters the room moving from right to left. In another scene, on the outside, Kalamma (Vinodhini Vaidyanathan), Swapna’s caretaker, can be seen from the window grills to be hanging the clothes out to dry. The camera, which is inside the room, leisurely moves towards the window producing an eerie feeling out of normal activity. And, in another instance, a close shot captures the lighting of a thick candle. Then there’s a slow-motion sequence in black-and-white where Swapna looks jovial while getting inked. During this, there’s a close shot of ink being dropped in a glass of water that gets slowly spread around and mixed up. Sometimes, inside a dimly-lit room, the camera cautiously moves towards a door creating a strange feeling. You also listen to the creak of a swing chair, as the camera ploddingly goes towards it, outside the house.

A. Vasanth’s cinematography is the very first thing that stands out as the film gives you glimpses of different elements of the story. Perhaps this is not anywhere close to the brilliant camera work of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. But it is definitely among the greatest works in Indian cinema. It just presented Director Ashwin Saravanan’s Game Over in a different light altogether. Of course, Ashwin’s vision is a big factor too. It’s not just the stupendous camera work that excites you but also how important these detailed shots turn out to be as the movie progresses.

The core of the narrative in Game Over is about incidents of some unknown men taking videos of women while torturing them, beheading them and then burning their headless body. One of those women in the film, who ends up being the target of these men, is Swapna. The film does not dwell too much on this character’s life. We take a gander at her past life where she is seen to have been kept in captivity inside a dark room and being tortured. This agonising incident is etched in her memory so much so that she finds herself in a state of terrible uneasiness when she encounters darkness inside a room. The tattoo, that she has on one of her forearms, resembling a video game controller, as she is a game freak, turn out to be a memorial tattoo that contains the ashes of a dead woman. Towards the intermission, the film can make you feel a bit of restlessness as Swapna’s fear of dark room and being a victim of torture (that never gets elaborated but only shown briefly) may seem repetitive and dragged a little. Even the tattoo is used as something that can add sentimental value to the film (The dead woman’s mother comes to see Swapna and have a feel of the memorial tattoo as it contains ashes of her daughter but it doesn’t move you because the focus was never really on building the story of this dead woman character).

Ashwin decides to finish off the first half of the movie with a message on the screen that says, “Game On”. Well, it literally means ‘What if life is a game’ (You will understand why when you see it). It’s the post-interval part that keeps you on the edge of the seat with your eyes popping out and mouth wide open in fearfulness. Every detailed camera shot that you saw in the first half will start finding meaning in the second half. There’s a headless body sitting in the swing chair. The head cut off from the body is thrown at the window. Swapna’s fear of darkness comes to the fore and this time with even more intensity. Men, all covered up in a black outfit, carrying daggers, don’t just sit on the couch and give a villainous look but also slit the throat instantly. The thick candle shown earlier comes into play as well as it, along with a flammable oil, is used for setting fire on one of these men and burn them.

The amazing music by Ron Ethan Yohann gives a boost to thrilling sequences in the film. The film is, one might say, India’s answer to Jordon Peele’s Get Out. The horrors that you get to experience in Game Over is on a whole new high, just like Get Out, but it also comes at a price. Like Get Out, amidst the shockers and thrillers, you may feel some of the elements not fully developed and left half-baked. But you won’t be thinking about all that after such an arresting act by Taapsee Pannu and heart-stopping experience that you get while watching this film.

‘NGK’ Movie Review: An unnatural and mind-numbing film

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Source: Sony Music South | Youtube

A guy says in a different context in NGK that something weird is happening and that they have not given any information so far. Well, weirdly enough, the movie stayed true to this dialogue.

There’s a greenish background and Nandha Gopala Kumaran aka Kumaran (played by Suriya) keeps staring at the camera, placed very close to his face, with a blank expression. This brief scene comes twice in NGK (Once at the beginning and secondly soon after the intermission). There’s a high possibility that, while tolerating this stodgy film, you may be able to correlate with these brief instances. You will be ending up watching the entire movie with the same blank countenance and can think of the dark surroundings of your cinema hall same as that greenish background.

Only the premise passed the test of patience as Kumaran, drenched in rain, climbs up the pipes and enters the house in a bid to surprise his wife Geetha (Sai Pallavi), talks to his mother about how working in a corporate company is stressful and unhealthy, and gloriously describes the peaceful life of being a farmer and doing organic farming. Soon after this interesting premise, Director Selvaraghavan offers a feast of mind-numbing sequences in NGK (It was shocking to witness such a film from the director of brilliant films like Mayakkam Enna).

Kumaran, who is a social activist, gets threatened for doing good deeds. He is advised by an old guy to get into actual politics as it would give him the power and authority that he needs to do good to people. And so he does. He joins a political party, starts from cleaning the toilet and eventually becomes the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Well, this does ring a bell if you are apprised of Tamil Nadu politics and will remind you of known persons from the political circle. And there are more references like this. It didn’t seem to mean anything other than just a stupid trial of being relevant with the real-world politics.

The movie feels unnatural in all its essence. The actors seem to be expressing exorbitantly. (The sheer annoyance that Sai Pallavi as the wife of Kumaran creates is too much to endure). Rakul Preet Singh, who plays the Vanathi character, doesn’t seem relevant (But hey! She gets to shake a leg with Suriya in an unnecessarily included song). There are forced inclusions of fight sequences involving Kumaran (Probably an attempt to give you a feeling of an adrenaline rush). Even Kumaran, who sort of turns psychotic in the latter half, looks irksome.

I am not sure what the movie really tried to say in all its oddities. As a matter of fact, it caused such restlessness that I didn’t bother knowing what this movie was all about and somehow managed to sit through the whole movie. One thing that really stood out was the amazing background score from Yuvan Shankar Raja. Otherwise, there is a dialogue in the film that fitted well with the kind of experience it offers and the ultimate thought it leaves you with. A guy says in a different context in NGK that something weird is happening and that they have not given any information so far. Well, weirdly enough, the movie stayed true to this dialogue.

Super Deluxe Movie Review: Sink into the ethereal blissfulness

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Source: Twitter | Gopi Prasannaa

Super Deluxe leaves you with thoughts – about life, our existence, the perception of normalcy and questions over what is considered right (or wrong)

Greatness of Director Thiagarajan Kumararaja, who garnered towering praise for his debut film Aaranya Kaandam, was well-known. His second film Super Deluxe is beyond greatness. It’s blissful and enlightening. After a thrilling and exceptional neo-noir gangster movie like Aaranya Kaandam, Thiagarajan has taken several leaps forward since then and there’s an unprecedented masterclass shown by him through his latest film. Super Deluxe leaves you with thoughts – about life, our existence, the perception of normalcy and questions over what is considered right (or wrong).

Super Deluxe has three disconnected stories (Not to forget that it is powered by super-stylish background score of Yuvan Shankar Raja). When I say disconnected, it means that they have no real dependence on one another and the events in each of those stories are taking place without any relation to the other. But somehow their worlds collide at some point and alter the lives of characters involved completely. There’s a lot happening in these stories that keep you on your edges throughout the movie. A small kid named Rasukutty (Ashwanth Ashokkumar), in the first story, is excited to see his father returning home after several years. And when his father returns, he is, now, revealed to be a transwoman named Shilpa (Vijay Sethupathi) which leaves his wife Jyothi (Gayathrie’s dejected and shocked countenance in this role moves you) in utter shock. The second story shows a group of teenage boys adroitly planning for a movie time together. Why is planning required in the first place just to watch a movie? They are planning to watch a porn movie and revel in sexual pleasures that they will obtain from it. The ultimate revelation as they play the movie on television is that the actress turns out to be one of the boys’ mother. The third story shows that Vaembu (Samantha Akkineni) has slept with her ex-boyfriend in her home and he has died just after the sex. While she is frozen with horror, she looks out from her window and sees that her husband Mugilan (Fahadh Faasil) is returning home on his motorcycle. The intriguing start to all of these three stories sets the wheels turning right from the incipient stage. The film never allows you to slip into a train of thoughts and its interesting turn of events keeps you engrossed throughout.

The entire first half of the movie is evenly mixed with both the seriousness and the humour. It is only in the second half that the gravity of those grave situations starts to overpower the hilarity attached to them. Take the case of transwoman Shilpa (Vijay Sethupathi has outstandingly shed his masculine nature and has lent a terrific performance). It is hilarious when Rasukutty repeatedly runs to the door to see if his father has arrived. And when he does arrive, Rasukutty’s grandfather, funnily, due to his old age, has no clue who that is. Even though Rasukutty accepts his father for what he is now, the outside world has not welcomed Shilpa with open arms. Shilpa is sexually abused by a police officer Berlin (Bagavathi Perumal is amazing in this character) and even mocked at by school children (A direct potshot at the importance of sex education for children). In another story, there are comedic instances where Vaembu openly confesses that she had intercourse with the man who died immediately after sex and her husband Mugilan tries to take a look at dead man’s penis to figure out if that’s the difference between him and the dead man. Later, a threat from police officer Berlin and his demand for intercourse with Vaembu makes you uncomfortable. In the story involving the teenage boys, their meet up with the boss of goons and their pursuit of money remains one of the most side-splitting instances in the film. But one of the boys is admitted in a hospital and it’s agonising to see his mother Leela (Ramya Krishnan), a former porn actress, begging to Doctor to start the surgery. It shows the horrifying reality of some of the hospitals taking no interest in saving lives but to rake in money. The situation gets worsened when Arputham (Mysskin), the religious and superstitious father of the dying boy, takes his son to his place of worship in the hope of saving his life (You really get annoyed by this superstitious Arputham character. That’s how well this character is written).

I was mesmerised by the camera work and the detailed shots. Shots captured using still camera were phenomenal (As Shilpa is strolling along the street with Rasukutty, in one scene, the colourful posters on the wall makes up for a picturesque shot). Sometimes, the background scenes play important role in defining a moment and even explain so much about the situation a character is in (Rasukutty suddenly gets lost and Shilpa frantically searches about the street. At this instant, we see ‘Real World, Magic Event’ scribbled on a wall). Even the depiction of life in different forms enthrals you. No matter how much trouble you are in, there is a life beyond your purview which keeps moving (Vaembu and Mugilan are caught in a complicated situation. A dead man is kept inside their refrigerator. Some guests are sitting in their living room. Amidst all this, the camera closely focuses on the ants busily crawling up the wall).

With the representation of lust, infidelity, extraterrestrial life, superstition, sexual abuse, sex education, dejection, merriment, harsh reality and everything in between, Super Deluxe has a much bigger thing to convey. And in what style! The teenage boys go to a cinema hall to watch a porn movie called ‘Super Deluxe’ and it’s through this adult film, we get to look at a much bigger picture of life as a guy narrates in a preachy and quirky tone. This is a film where Thiagarajan questions what is considered a ‘normal’ life and what should be done (or not to be done) so as to be accepted by society. We get to realise that we all are one. This is one world. Super Deluxe is the greatest Tamil-language Indian film I have ever witnessed. I can even go on to say that it is one of the best films of all time.

Viswasam Movie Review: An emotional masala action that works wonders

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Viswasam is a sentimental journey where you submit yourself to the emotionally-driven storytelling and let go of all the imperfections in the film.

There was a feeling of uncontrollable emotions building up inside me that burst out in the form of tears. The father-daughter relationship delineated in Director Siva’s Viswasam (Loyalty) was so beautiful and heartrending at the same time which makes you forget all the flaws in the film. You get absorbed by its relatable and emotional narrative. It’s a film where you leave the cinema halls wiping off your tears from the face.

Starring Ajith Kumar (or ‘Thala’ as his fans fondly call him), Viswasam opens with two different sides of feelings – mirthfulness and melancholy. The happy side is the sight of green fields, people cultivating crops and the enjoyment during a festival. And the other side shows the debate over conducting a festival and the sadness in Thooku Durai (Ajith Kumar) while everyone else is having fun during the festival (An old lady points out that he is deliberately keeping a smile on his face to hide the agony inside him). The latter feeling wins over the former and makes up for the erratic comedy (except for Yogi Babu as Velu) that the film produces. Viswasam takes us through the life of Thooku Durai, his love-life, and his reunion with his daughter amidst troubles.

The maturity in the romance between Thooku Durai and Niranjana (Nayanthara) was a delight to watch (it was exemplified by Nayanthara and Ajith’s beautiful exhibition). There isn’t any instant love that is prominently seen in such masala films. The bond between Thooku Durai and Niranjana grows steadily. It was lovely to see that they get to know that one is staring at the other through some children and not a lot of fuss is made over that. Even the proposal comes from Niranjana’s father for the marriage. Also, not much of dialogue was infused in this phase and little things like gestures of approval made it even more attractive (like the “hmm” from Niranjana when he confirms her affection towards him or his ‘Indian nod’ as a mark of acceptance for the marriage proposal or when she holds his hands to show that she wants to hug him). This is also the phase which features the “Danga Danga” song composed by D. Imman which was nice to hear in an otherwise underwhelming background score and the disappointing cluster of songs.

It was the relationship between a father and the daughter that was superbly sketched in this film and will be remembered for years to come. It was shown through Thooku Durai, the protagonist, and Gautham Veer (Jagapathi Babu), the antagonist. We could feel the affliction in Thooku Durai when his daughter Swetha (Anikha) tells him that she thinks of her father (not knowing that Thooku Durai is her father) while taking part in a race competition as she hates him the most. It was a moving scene when Gautham’s daughter conveys to him that she can’t stop talking to him. No matter how melodramatic the movie turns out towards the end, both the relationships were excellently registered in our minds as it gets hard to not cry during the climax.

The duel between Thooku Durai and Gautham Veer was intriguing. It was a consuming interaction where Gautham says that he is the “hero” and Thooku Durai retorts saying, “en kathai la naa villain da”. It reminds us of Ajith’s success with characters that have negative shade. We also see that Thooku Durai is a person who gets into a fight easily and is also known for coming out on top whenever he gets into a fight. So, it was pleasant to see that there isn’t a truckload of fight sequences. There are some interestingly crafted stunt sequences where a sort of mind game is played (when Thooku Durai uses the method of ‘waiting for the lion to come near the sheep’). The heroic moments during Thooku Durai’s duel with Gautham and the fight sequences looked resplendent.

Vivek and Kovai Sarala have a small part to play and are not too funny but managed to bring a smile on our face. The brief presence of Yogi Babu as Velu was hilarious as he calls a doctor as “aambala Doctor” who is standing amidst female doctors or irritatingly call him a “bommai moonji”. But his transient spell was so good that it makes you yearn for more as Robo Shankar and Thambi Ramaiah, who have much longer screen space, are not comedic at all and when they do try something funny, it feels annoying. Even Ajith’s comical act did not work for me.

The sentiment is the hallmark of this film and it sounds really good when Ajith gives us a life lesson. It feels insightful when he talks about unity and how a festival brings different people together. In another instance, he even stresses upon “muyarchi” that points towards the need to keep trying in our life.

There have been some great movies which really makes us cry and I have been witness to such great motion pictures. When it comes to watching a really good emotional movie in a cinema hall, trying not to cry so that people sitting near you does not find out, and still winding up crying with no control whatsoever, I can remember that I actually wept when I watched Aamir Khan starring “Taare Zameen Par” in a movie theatre. Viswasam is another addition in that list. This film is a sentimental journey where you submit yourself to the emotionally-driven storytelling and let go of all the imperfections in the film.

Petta Movie Review: A truest, exhilarating and jovial masala action movie

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Petta is a romantic, mind-boggling, and a rollicking ride that is ‘only’ for Rajini fans

It’s a dark corridor of a college hostel and masked men are attacking students with billhooks. Kaali a.k.a Pettavelan (Superstar Rajinikanth) comes from the dark saying “ulle poda” (Go inside) in Baasha-ish style that sort of reverberates through the corridor. This scene comes just before the intermission which sent shivers down my spine. Karthik Subbaraj’s Petta is a masala action film where you get ‘rajnified’ by the truest ‘mass moments’ (as the heroic moments are called in Tamil cinema). Petta is not exactly about a transformation of the protagonist from an innocuous guy to a powerful man like we see in Baasha. It is more of a showing-his-real-identity thing where he is already known for being courageous and influential.

Karthik Subbaraj’s storytelling has been his greatest asset and it was no different in Petta. It takes us back and forth to different times and keeps springing surprises thereby keeping us engrossed. The story begins with a riveting present-day scene and goes back in the past that eventually leads us to that present day. It again digs further down in the past to uncover more secrets and comes back to the present day for a grand finale. Petta is about Pettavelan, the college hostel warden, who is not only responsible for looking after the students but has a history with present-day powerful politician Singaar Singh a.k.a Singaaram (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). We learn about Pettavelan’s real motive of joining the college as warden and revel in the intriguing duel between him and Singaaram.

Petta is replete with references to Rajinikanth’s previous movies and the aura that he has created over the years. Anyone who is a true fan of Rajini (like Director Karthik Subbaraj himself) and has been hankering for reliving those ‘Rajini moments’ would definitely relish every reference that has been made in this film. Rajini’s famous “paambu..paambu” dialogue still makes us laugh and Pettavelan does say that to frighten the college mess supervisor (Munishkanth Ramdoss). When Singaaram’s son Jithu (Vijay Sethupathy) asks for a cigarette, he throws one in his own mouth, lights it and exhales smoke (but also advises not to smoke). In another scene, he even twirls his gun around the trigger finger. Anu (Megha Akash), the daughter of Rajini’s love-interest Mangalam (Simran) in the present day, tells Pettavelan that he looks stylish like a young boy to which he says, “naturally”. When he throws open the gate outside Mangalam’s home, it reminds us of that iconic gate scene from his first film Apoorva Raagangal. One can’t help but rejoice in the reminiscence of his film Mullum Malarum when he dances to the song called ‘Raman Aandaalum’. Maalik (M. Sasikumar), the close friend of Pettavelan and Anwar (Sananth Reddy), the son of Maalik, reminds us of that beautiful friendship from the movie Baashha.

Huge credit goes to Karthik Subbaraj for showing us the playful side of Rajinikanth to an extent that was perhaps last seen in Sivaji The Boss. When being interviewed for warden post by the College Principal (Y.G. Mahendran), Pettavelan bangs hard on the table, gets hold onto a toy and says “bommai” (toy) referring to the Principal. He is also not just walking around in the college. Instead, we see him in a rollicking mode all the time. He does a cricket bowling action while walking along with college mess supervisor. While Michael (Bobby Simha) and his men are ragging the junior guys, Pettavelan comes in the midst of them and shakes a leg. At a funeral, we see Pettavelan jovially dancing to the beats of drums. It is chucklesome to see his reaction when Maalik, who has impregnated Poongodi, says that he has done nothing. In another scene, lost in the beauty of Mangalam, who is a pranic healer in this film, Pettavelan winds up asking if she is a “biryani dealer”.

I never wanted the romantic phase between Pettavelan and Mangalam to end at all. Rajinikanth and Simran’s pair was reinvigorating and pleasant to watch which made this a dreamy phase and one for the ages. Pettavelan knocks on her door and looks at the mirror to see if he is looking alright. Mangalam does the same on the inside before opening the door. Anu and her boyfriend Anwar are mesmerised by the blossoming romance between Pettavelan and Mangalam as she smilingly watches him cooking food (And so are we enthralled by this lovely relationship!). It is a beautiful scene when they go out and buy flowers and ‘Ilamai Thirumbuthe’ song in the background exemplifies the beauty even more (Anirudh Ravichander’s commendable music is one of the quintessential elements of this film).

As the first half of the movie covers the romance and college scenes, one may start thinking if this is what the movie is all about. In one of the scenes in the second half, Pettavelan gets a phone call from Mangalam and does not answer reaffirming that there is no time for love and more important issues are at stake. So, as we approach towards the intermission, Pettavelan and his fight with the goons gets triggered. It is almost like Pettavelan is giving a signal to the audience to sit-back-and-enjoy when he is sitting on an easy-chair near the college gate with his hands behind the head literally waiting for the goons to attack him. All the drama surrounding ragging in the college, the enmity between Michael and Anwar, and the romance comes to a halt as the movie unveils the core issues of the movie. It was thrilling to see Rajinikanth using nunchaku (chain sticks), a martial arts weapon popularised by Bruce Lee, to fight against goons with such agility. The scene where he shoots at the chairs which are piled up behind Jithu is a visual treat.

In a film like this, where everyone has performed so well, it is hard to pinpoint one or two. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Singaaram looks threatening when a bomb goes off at a place and he crawls over dead bodies frantically in search of Pettavellan. Vijay Sethupathy as Jithu looks villainous when he removes the shawl from one hand and starts shooting at the goons. Simran as Mangalam is not just beautiful but performs with aplomb when she had to persuade another patient (Chinni Jayanth) to wait outside while she is treating Pettavelan. The evil look of Bobby Simha as Michael works wonder as he does all the talking in absence of Pettavelan but could not say a word while he is present. M. Sasikumar as Maalik looks perfect for this innocent character. Although, I felt that Saro’s character could have been given some importance as her death did not evoke any emotion. Also, Maalik’s friendship with Pettavelan seemed to have been cut short and did not fully develop into a strong bond that it aspired to. But the lack of focus on these characters did not really affect much as the story had a lot of complications and was gradually revealing everything in an immersing way.

Whether it was intentionally done or the movie really required it, I have no idea. Petta has some political touch to it (Rajini’s political entry in the real-life has definitely worked in the film’s favour). There is a politician who calls himself “Kingmaker” while in the background someone is speaking on the phone asking how much thermocol is needed (a clear reference to a Tamil Nadu minister who floated thermocol sheets to curb water loss due to evaporation).  Pettavelan even asks the students to ‘speak up’ for their problems related to hostel food. During the ragging scene, he also reiterates that ‘newcomers are never welcomed properly’. We also see Pettavelan reading a book about politics during the interview with the College Principal. While convincing Rajapandi for the marriage of Maalik and Poongodi, Pettavelan says that he does not differentiate between Hindus and Muslims. There is also a reference to some of the recent incidents related to killings in the name of cow protection when some people start attacking Jithu for the same reason.

I am afraid that Petta is not for the ones who are not true fans of Rajinikanth. Fans of Karthik Subbaraj (like myself) may not be enjoying as much for there are compromises made to accommodate Rajini moments. But Petta will be remembered for the Rajini mania that it has created. As the acknowledgements in the beginning clearly mention that it is dedicated to Superstar Rajinikanth, one would expect a lot of fan moments. The inception itself had an answer to that as Karthik Subbaraj drops us to a fight scene right away and a blurred vision of Rajinikanth can be seen which is followed by his angry eyes and then the full picture. Petta will also be remembered for new dialogues of Rajinikanth (like dancing to a song for 30 seconds to forget our problems or cooking the food with love or my favourite, “Nallavana iru, romba nallavana irukathey”). This is the sort of movie where I won’t mind Prime Minister of the country calling a college principal to recommend Pettavelan for a warden post. Petta is a romantic, mind-boggling, entertaining and a rollicking ride that makes us say “yes, we want more” when Rajinikanth turns towards the camera and asks, “intha aattam pothuma?”.

2.0 Movie Review: A sci-fi film to be lived, loved and experienced

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2.0 is a sci-fi action film which is fascinating, educative and a visual masterpiece where Rajinikanth shines all the way

I knew that this is Director Shankar’s film and I was prepared for the visual extravaganza that his films are known for. 2.0 was no different. Things like how big the budget of the film is and the top-notch VFX shots that the film has to offer were given the wings to fly to spread before the release in the promotional campaigns. So, perhaps I needed to warm myself up before the film portrays the visually impressive scenes. And 2.0 does warm you up. In the very beginning, it gives you a lot to ponder over with a mixture of emotions. While a whole family is engrossed on smartphones, a man is speaking to someone on his phone saying that he is having a “quality time” with his family. Another guy takes a selfie sitting beside a dead man pretending to be sad. And a lady says that the phone has kept her lead the marital life in spite of her husband working in a foreign country. A guy says that he is bored to death without a phone. This is a humorous yet an intelligent sequence of shots that put forth the picture of where the world is heading in this age of mobile phones.

The film does not waste any time and keeps us arrested right from the word go. It depicts the dominance of phones in our lives. But interestingly phones also dominate most of the narrative. A guy is talking on the phone while riding his motorcycle and falls from his vehicle as the phone flies away into nowhere (hidden advice that you shouldn’t be talking on the phone while riding a motorcycle?). I loved Shankar’s vision when a swarm of phones glides along the road and into a bungalow. In another riveting scene, phones slide down from the trees and crawl among the fallen leaves to attack phone company chief (Kaizaad Kotwal). Also, it was terrifying when a truckload of phones go inside a phone seller’s mouth as he explodes into pieces. Even the military tank finds itself helpless before a horde of phones. I could not have imagined a better way of showing destruction and death just using mobile phones. There is no random killing of people. What works in a big way is that it makes us think of real motive behind every single event. We get a feeling that all these events are happening to prove a point as the people who get attacked are phone seller, phone company chief and Telecom Minister (Kalabhavan Shajohn) – Watch out for the transient but brilliant and hilarious performance of Telecom minister and his assistant (Mayilsamy).

2.0 resumes from where it left off in Endhiran (yes you must watch it to understand the references in 2.0). So obviously, there are elements of Endhiran in this film. There is a phone call from Sana (Aishwarya Rai) – Dr. Vaseegaran’s (Scientist Rajinikanth) love interest – we do not actually see her but just hear the voice. Chitti, humanoid version of Rajinikanth, has human-like feelings which force him not to shoot Dr. Vaseegaran. 2.0, which is both the title of the movie and the name of the evil version of Chitti, uses a cluster of guns to shoot, becomes a magnet to attract objects made of iron, forms a spherical figure shooting all around and even says that iconic dialogue (meh..) in his villainous tone. There are references to Shankar’s other films as well. When evil Chitti says that it is always a great feeling to die and then come back alive, it reminds us of Sivaji: The Boss. There is also an Anniyan-esque scene involving Dr. Vaseegaran and Pakshirajan (Akshay Kumar) where Chitti gets ripped off.

Everything about Akshay Kumar as Pakshirajan and the story revolving around him was so wonderful to watch. We feel the calm and composed nature of his character as he explains his love for birds. It is a pleasant sight when we see the birds perched on his stretched arms or when a bird is building a nest over the ceiling fan. As the pullinangal song enthrals us in the background (Music director A.R. Rahman is at his best), a bird nods its head to the rhythm of the song. It is so moving to hear him talk about the harsh realities of cell phone signals that are killing birds. I was driven by the emotional and poignant display in the movie when a dead baby bird falls in the hands of Pakshirajan. And then there is this Pakshirajan, with his face tilted and wearing a sly grin, looking fierce in the avatar of ‘birdman’ (as evil Chitti calls him) as a rap song plays in the background that enhances the style and ferociousness.

Amy Jackson as Nila is a nice addition to this film. She is a humanoid, has pre-programmed feelings and assists Dr. Vaseegaran. Although she does not have much to do with the narrative, she never looks out of place. Her romance portions look funny and it works. Like when Dr. Vaseegaran proposes to get Chitti back on road, it brings a wide smile on Nila. She even says dialogues like vada poche! (a leaf taken out of Comedian Vadivelu’s sidesplitting one-liners) and naalu peruku nalladhuna edhuvum thappilla (famous scene from the movie Nayagan). It is comedic when the Irumbile oru idhaiyam song (from Endhiran) plays in the background as she romantically looks at Chitti.

It was hugely satisfying to watch Rajinikanth pull off a stunner as he performed with aplomb. We see him taking different avatars from small to giant. He literally lived in those characters. As Dr. Vaseegaran, there is every bit of scientist in him as he uses a visualisation technology to explain things. He does not try to run fast, jump high or fight with someone. As a matter of fact, Nila saves him from a falling tower and is even helped to climb and jump off a wall. For all the action, there is Chitti. Chitti continues his superhuman stuff from where he left off in Endhiran. But the evil Chitti stole the show with his villainous yet comical display. I laughed out loud when evil Chitti kept on imitating a bird. Deservingly, he had a Superstar Rajni title card that appeared magnificently before the start of the movie in 3D.

There were a few areas that did not work for me. Dhinendra Bohra (Sudhanshu Pandey) did not really grow into a threatening character. He did not seem to have much relevance other than being the son of Bohra (Danny Denzongpa) who played the antagonistic role in Endhiran. Pakshirajan turning into a giant bird did not scatter my wits. There was a feeling of familiarity as Dr. Vaseegaran pitches for Chitti’s return. That truck scene where the giant bird is being controlled did not look menacing and seemed draggy. And it seems like movies with superheroic stories can’t be made without demolishing the building with people in it or without hurting the people in general. The spherical figure, formed by evil Chitti, runs in and around the stadium shooting everywhere all the while with people running helter-skelter. Also, the fight sequence between giant versions of evil Chitti and Pakshirajan did not quite work for me. It was annoying to see few lip-sync fails as some actors including Akshay Kumar were actually speaking in Hindi.

I liked how the dialogues (B. Jeyamohan’s Tamil dialogues are phenomenal) were intelligently capturing the mood of the film. Pakshirajan rips off the legs of Chitti and says, “Your call (kaal) is disconnected”. He attacks Dhinendra Bohra saying that he is also a “subscriber”. The movie educates us about the relevance of using technology in an optimal way without causing any damage to the other lives on earth (birds in this case). But it never feels preachy. It is a movie which is to be lived, loved and experienced. There is a scene in the movie where a man tells that he started enjoying life more without the phones but still comes out to buy a new one. That perfectly puts the current scenario as neither can we stay without it forever nor can we keep using it all the time. It did trigger me to look at the world with a different viewpoint and I hope it encourages more people to understand that this world is not only for humans. 2.0 is a sci-fi action film which is fascinating, educative and a visual masterpiece where Rajinikanth shines all the way. As Dr. Vaseegaran suggests, I will at least keep a pot of water for the birds in the extreme summer. Dot.